The Bjerknes Centre is a collaboration on climate research, between the University of Bergen, Uni Research, the Institute of Marine Research, Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre.

Wolfgang (Wolf) H. Berger in memoriam

Obiturary for Wolfgang H. Berger by Eystein Jansen

Professor Wolf Berger of Scripps Institution of Oceanography has passed away at the age of 79.

Wolf was a long-term friend of the Bjerknes Centre, having served on our Scientific Advisory Board during the first five years after the start. He was also a truly inspirational scientist for the paleoclimate and carbon cycle communities here and worldwide, not least for myself personally. A good friend and colleague has passed away, leaving a legacy of groundbreaking research with 250 published papers. Wolf was one of the smartest people I have met, with an immense curiosity.  Having him as a friend and colleague was important in shaping the ideas we pursued in the founding years of the Centre. I had the privilege of publishing a series of papers on the ice ages, Milankovitch cycles and paleoceanography with him, often originating from ideas he had developed, followed by our discussions on them and developing them into papers. Wolf had an immense curiosity for- and understanding of how our planet functions. With his breadth of knowledge and intuition he could have engaged conversations on nearly all aspects of ocean and atmospheric science as well as on language and history.


Wolf was one of the pioneers of paleoceanography and studies of deep ocean sediments, having developed critical theories about the carbon-carbonate cycle, including  developing new concepts such as the carbonate compensation depth (CCD) and the lysocline. He was a pioneer in establishing and utilising stable isotopes in foraminifera as a tool for reconstructing past ocean circulation and pioneered studies of ocean productivity and the factors controlling it. He could develop predictions and quantify processes derived from first principles. Wolf also did a great job in popularizing science with his seminal textbook on the sea floor, with E. Seibold,  his history of ocean research as well as children´s books. 

In many ways he was a polymath with an outstanding capacity. But at the same time he was a humourous, gentle and friendly person, listening to the views and experience of others.  Wolf was esteemed by his peers worldwide and was honoured with numerous prizes, such as the EGU Milankovitch Medal, The Blue Planet award, The Balzan prize, The AGU Ewing prize, The Bigelow Medal, the Prince Albert 1 Medal and numerous other awards, including being a fellow of both AGU and GSA.

Wolf did his PhD at Scripps after undergraduate studies in his native Germany, and except for a brief stay in Kiel, spent his entire career at Scripps, including working as Division Head and Acting Director of Scripps during periods. He had a longtime collaboration with Bremen and was instrumental as an aide in setting up the MARUM centre there. Wolf was a great fan of all things Norwegian and came here on many visits with his wife Karen, both as a scientist and a tourist. He taught himself Norwegian from listening to Norwegian fairytales, and travelled around with camera and sketch book.  

To us his curiosity, friendliness and thinking out of the box sets a splendid example for a scientist. He will be deeply missed, but has left a legacy of scientific achievements.


In memory of his achievements and who he was.